Higher Learning – Language Lessons

InsideOUT Writers is honored to be a part of a community of organizations and individuals who are committed to transforming the juvenile justice system. This column highlights people who are making a difference. In this issue, Eliana Yoneda, IOW’s College Intern, shares how her recent trip to Africa reminded her of IOW.

Language Lessons
This summer I traveled throughout East Africa. I started my journey in Rwanda with two friends, and over the course of three weeks we traveled through Tanzania and Kenya. Throughout our journey we met people whose opinions and life experiences differed greatly from our own. Though sometimes this was cause for tension, it usually led to unexpected friendships.
In some cases, those we befriended were foreigners like ourselves—people from Europe, Canada and Australia. Many of the most important relationships we developed, however, were with Rwandans, Tanzanians and Kenyans. Though our Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili were limited at best, we found ways to communicate with people from different cultures through a language that transcends spoken words.
Regardless of culture, educational background, race or socio-economic status, we all know what love, pain, joy and loss feel like based on our own experiences. While those experiences might differ greatly, the emotions themselves are essentially the same and go beyond one’s native tongue. When I joined the InsideOUT Writers family as an intern last fall it did not take me long to realize that this language—this international connection to a shared humanity—is the beauty and backbone of the organization.
Members of the IOW family come from many different backgrounds and life experiences. No matter what their role within the organization—student, alumni, teacher, mentor or staff—those who walk into the IOW office or a writing class inside the halls share the ability to put aside their differences in recognition of their similarities.

Eliana Yoneda and traveling companion Justine Gomes at the Kenya/Tanzania border on the Masai Mara.

Eliana Yoneda and traveling companion Justine Gomes at the Kenya/Tanzania border on the Masai Mara.

This ability to appreciate not only our shared experiences, but our shared emotions, brings us together as a family. Every week, teachers walk into the halls not only to teach, but to learn from their students, to find ways to connect with them on a deeper level. Every day, alumni walk into the office to not only find resources and answers, but to maintain relationships with the staff that are based on love and support. All of these relationships are built on a foundation stronger than cement and stone; they are built on an honest and open understanding, an often forgotten universal language that IOW has mastered.

-Eliana Yoneda

Eliana Yoneda is a graduate of Occidental College with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She has been interning at InsideOUT Writers since the fall of 2012. Since starting her internship she has taught writing circles in the halls and for alumni. Eliana will pursue a graduate degree in Social Welfare at UCLA in the fall. She intends to work with nonprofits, much like IOW, to improve the juvenile justice system.